Jim Rantz started working with the Twins in 1965 and was director of minor league operations from 1986 until he retired following the 2012 season.
Rantz was a key part of the development of Twins greats such as Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tim Laudner and Frank Viola, and he sees similarities between the way those players came up at a young age and eventually took the Twins to two World Series titles, and the potential of current prospects such as Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer and Trevor May.
The big question is if these prospects can duplicate what that group in the 1980s did, developing into a World Series champion.
“We had some injuries involved and I know these young guys were tearing it up [in the minor leagues],” Rantz recalled. “Hrbek was tearing it up in [Class A] Visalia [in 1981]. Puckett was doing the same [in 1983]. We were struggling and [owner] Calvin [Griffith] wanted to make a move and make a change and see if they could add a spark to us and they did.”
Rantz cautioned that it took those players many years to become a champion. Hrbek, Laudner and Gaetti debuted in 1981; Viola, Randy Bush and Tom Brunansky, acquired in a trade, arrived in 1982; and Puckett was called up in 1984. But the Twins didn’t post a winning record until their World Series campaign of 1987.
In fact, from 1981 to ’86 the Twins posted a 400-519 record, a .435 winning percentage.
Still when those players reached the majors, they showed signs of their potential, and the team knew they had a special group.
“They all contributed, and they all belonged,” Rantz said. “None of them got sent back, I can tell you that. Once they got called up, they were here.”
Experience is key
Buxton is only 20 years old, as is Sano, who Saturday found out he will miss all of this season because of elbow surgery. Rantz pointed out that the players who helped the team in the 1980s were a bit older when they were first called up.
“Well these guys we’re talking about are a lot younger than the guys we were talking about,” Rantz said.
Hrbek and Brunansky were 21 when they joined the Twins. Gaetti and Viola were 22 and Puckett was 24 — although until his death, it was believed he was 23.
“They had a little more experience before they got called up,” Rantz said.
New post for Maturi
Former Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi is keeping busy teaching classes at the university, and he has started hearing cases in his position as a member of the NCAA Committee on Infractions, a position he took last year. He attended his first hearing last week.
“It is a very significant committee,” Maturi said. “It handles all of the violations of Division I institutions, especially what we used to call major violations but are now called Level I and Level II violations. We as a group, or panel now, either have a conference call or meet in person to determine the sanctions.”
Maturi is not allowed to mention the schools that are involved in the panel’s hearings. He was asked how long after he hears a case will a ruling be made.
“Sometimes it’s a couple of days, sometimes it’s a few hours, dependent upon the information we’ve received, our agreement with what the institution believes and what the enforcement staff believes, and the conclusions that we come to,” Maturi said. “We try to be fair, we try to be consistent, and we look at what the committee on infractions has done previously with cases that were similar and we try to look at the involvement of the institution and how open and honest they have been. All of those factors contribute to the eventual sanctions.”